Recently I visited a local retailer, where I noticed that the gospel singer Yolanda Adams would be conducting a in store CD signing. Upon leaving, I was asked by the greeter (who recognized me since I am a frequent shopper there) if I was coming back to see my friend. When I asked who that was, she replied “Yolanda Adams”, to which I replied “no”. As I walked to my vehicle, a few things crossed my mind. One: frustration over the assumption that all Black Women attend church and listen to Gospel Music. Two: that I SHOULD go back to the store, tell Yolanda Adams that I am an atheist and ask her how she feels about us. And Three: that it is now more important than ever for nonbelievers – especially in the Black community – to become an ever present and vigilant voice in the world today.
Those of us that do not believe in God are all around you. We’re everyday people, just trying to live normal lives like everyone else. We’re your neighbors, students, employees, employers and entrepreneurs. A good many of us are also sitting next to you in religious institutions - either in doubt about their faith, or have given it up altogether. But because serious consequences could occur as a result of going public with their nonbelief – includinig being shunned by friends and family - they sit in silence and pretend to agree with something they no longer believe is true. And that’s where we come in. We exist not as an alternative, but as a primary support system. Whether you are fully out as a nonbeliever, still questioning your faith, or even if you have to pretend to go along with the flow, but need to safe place to vent - we are here for you.
Being raised as a Black Nationalist taught me to have pride in my race. I was raised learning that African Americans have contributed greatly to the history of the United States beyond slavery – all in the face of serious adversity. We have spawned great authors, inventors, activists, entertainers, educators and sports figures. Yet I cannot be proud of the way many of us continue to embrace unfounded religious beliefs, and will even go out of their way to admonish those that do not. Critical thinking is at an all time low in the Black community – the proof is in the high drug, disease and pregnancy rates. And with so many churches concentrated there – with millions of dollars collectively flowing through them – there’s really no reason why the notion to look to an invisible entity to solve problems should still exist.
In closing, I would like to say that the time to turn around the image of the one dimensional, religious minded African American is NOW. And here at Black Nonbelievers, we are determined to make this a reality. Your support will be needed as we embark on this journey, and we intend to make it as fulfilling, informative and helpful as possible – not just for us, but for the atheist/freethinking/nonbelieving community as a whole.
Mandisa L. Thomas